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Monday, March 01, 2004

Monday morning offerings 

Not surprisingly, I'm still trying to catch up from my vacation so this update will be mostly crime fiction and less "current news," if you will. Having said that, here we go:

If you had to pick the most powerful literary agent in the UK right now, chances are very good that Ed Victor's name would cross the lips of the majority who answer (if only because they don't want to say Andrew Wylie's.) He represents Frederick Forsyth, Jack Higgins, and many other heavy hitters--so what makes him so feared and charmed? The Guardian attempts to solve this conundrum. They also make a point about agent-getting: unsolicited submissions are just not a happening thing. So how do you get your foot in the door? Same way as for any other job: contacts, contacts, contacts.

Sean Hughes, who decided after only 25 people showed up for a signing, to invite everyone next door to the pub. Uh, this is a shocker? Then how did I end up drinking with so many crime writers after signings?

What's really cool is that I don't have to make fun of Janet Maslin's newest review because Ron does it so much better. So let's wait till he gets around to the latest edition of "Maslin Watch," shall we?

What happens when a drug-dealing thug steals the identity of a young graduate student on his way to start an MFA in poetry in a sleepy town in Oklahoma? Where, in the same town, a hapless poetry prof wakes up to a dead girl in his bed? Not surprisingly, total chaos and lots of laughs, which is just what Victor Gischler's THE PISTOL POETS has in spades. I loved it, and Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post liked it very much as well.

And another rave review for Scott Phillips' COTTONWOOD is in, this time from Gary Dretzka of the Chicago Sun-Times. Although there were a couple of baseball analogies too many for me, but if it's to make the point that this is a fine novel, well, so be it then.

David Peace is, frankly, one of my favorite writers going. His Red Riding Quartet, which focuses on Yorkshire life before and after the Ripper Murders, is gritty, bleak, but heartbreakingly beautiful stuff (and no easy read by any chance.) Now he's turned to the Miner's Strike of 20 years back with his new work GB84, which is getting some mixed notices already. Euan Ferguson of the Observer thought it worthy but flawed, but John Burnside of the Scotsman was less enthusiastic. Me, I'm eagerly awaiting my copy, which has yet to arrive on my doorstep...

At the Observer, Peter Guttridge rounds up the newest crime dishes, including the new Dalziel and Pascoe by Reg Hill. But others are not so new--I mean, do we really need another take on Jilliane Hoffman's RETRIBUTION? Blah, better use of space to have put something else. Though it was heartening that two of Orion's New Blood books, Richard Burke's FROZEN and John Connor's PHOENIX, got nice notices. (FROZEN was a welcome surprise to me, and I'm looking forward to reading Connor's book, though I chose Massimo Carlotto's THE COLUMBIAN MULE when I was at Sleuth of Baker Street the other day.)

Leslie Silbert's THE INTELLIGENCER is one debut that's garnering much pre-publication buzz, most likely due to the following things: the author is a youngish Renaissance scholar-turned PI, who's writing about a similar character investigating a manuscript which may have links to 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe. Is it good? I asked Marian Masters at Sleuth about it and she loved it, and we have some similar tastes, and I'd planned on reading it anyway. So it's good to see that Suzanne Ferris has given the debut a fine review, albeit with a caveat about a "forced and disappointing" ending. First novel blues, perhaps.

Craig MacDonald profiles the life and work of Cornel Woolrich, a noir writer who is far less known than the likes of Hammett/Chandler/Cain/etc but ought to be. It's the 100th anniversary of his birth and to commemorate this, Carroll & Graf has released a compendium of Woolrich's unpublished fiction, NIGHT AND FEAR.

Fans of John Dunning's "Bookman" series will rejoice: after a nine year hiatus, Dunning is bringing back Cliff Janeway, his ex-cop-turned-antiquarian bookshop dealer hero and the star of BOOKED TO DIE and THE BOOKMAN'S WAKE, for a third installment. Robin Vidimos of the Denver Post loves it, and is thrilled that a fourth Janeway will be in the bookshops sooner than we hoped--the manuscript is finished and in with the publisher.

Also at the Post is a most flattering review of Reed Arvin's HypeMonster (TM) in training, THE LAST GOODBYE.

Mark Sarvas made me aware of an article in the Nation about the pleasures of foreign crime fiction, looking at authors like Andrea Camilleri, Jean-Patrick Manchette, and Jose Latour. Good authors all, but there's plenty more where those came from, just in Italy alone (Massimo Carlotto, Carlo Lucarelli, and anyone I forgot, I'm sure Jacopo can chime in at this point.)

Ed had linked to an article over the weekend about John Lescroart complaining that in spite of his NYT Bestseller status, he just gets no damn respect. Although he jokes that his name hinders his possible recognition, he's making a point; it's bloody hard to pronouce (because it's the French way, so less-SKWAH) and thus hard for people to say properly. Why didn't his publisher insist on a name change back in the day? Hard to say, and so, it's stuck, but he still sells anyway. And really, is that so much to complain about? If he wants respect, change his name, write something completely different and see what happens. But it might not be pretty. (or, as Ed had put it: "dude, shut up. You've sold ten million books.")

Scottish crime fiction is at an all-time high, but somewhat lost in the shuffle amongst the Rankins and the McDermid's is Quintin Jardine, who's been writing a police procedural series starring DI Skinner for several years now. Scotland on Sunday profiles him to give the author some additional and welcome exposure.

Raincoast Books, the Canadian publisher who makes all its money as the distributor of the Harry Potter books, is opening a small office in Toronto because Vancouver is simply "too far away" from all the action.

Where has chick lit taken off the most? Why, Ireland, it seems, what with the success of the likes of Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly and now, Cecelia Ahern.

Rosemary Goring celebrates that Canadian fiction is diverse, appealing, and finally "coming in from the cold." Of course, that she's only noticing it now is another matter.

And finally, the Oscars? Oh yeah. I tuned out after Renee Zellweger won for supporting actress and Harvey Weinstein had that creepy look on his face that I haven't seen since Gwyneth won for best actress five years ago. Good lord, I don't even want to contemplate what the hell I thought I just thought. Oh yeah, and I gather I didn't miss much by falling asleep early....

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